Foreign-Language Oscar Spotlight: Spain's Basque Romance 'Flowers'

Courtesy of San Sebastian Film Festival

Jon Garano and Jose Mari Goenaga's feature follows a married woman who begins to receive a daily bouquet of flowers, anonymously.

For the first time ever, Spain’s bid for the Academy Award for best foreign-language film will not be in Spanish. Instead, Flowers, a subtle drama about romance and memory, marks the first time a Basque-language film will represent the country for the Academy Awards race.

The $1.8 million (€1.7 million) drama is the second feature by the directorial team comprised of Jon Garano and Jose Mari Goenaga, following 80 Days in 2010. Both films were co-productions between Moriarti and Irusoin production houses, located in Spain’s northern Basque region.

Flowers tells the story of Ane (Nagore Aranburu), whose life changes after she starts receiving flowers anonymously every week from someone who is not her husband. When the flowers stop arriving suddenly, she learns the identity of the sender — a married co-worker with whom she barely spoke and who had recently been killed in a car accident — and the film shifts from romance to remembrance. Ane begins her own ritual: laying flowers every week on the roadside at the site of the accident every week. Their presence stirs feelings in the man’s widow and his mother.

“We tried to tell a universal story that could be understood anywhere even though there are maybe some culture codes, like leaving flowers on the roadside. But, they are things that everyone can understand,” Goenaga explained.

Some have remarked on the irony of two men directing a story that reflects the inner workings of three women. That wasn't the original plan, Garano said, but as the pair developed the story "it just seemed to work as a story of women. It seemed more credible that a woman received flowers. Another subject of the film that seems secondary, but was important to us, was motherhood. The motherhood that exists and the one that can’t be, and that is specifically linked to the world of women.”

Flowers was a minor success in Spain — selling 55,000 tickets, a strong performance for a Basque-language title — but failed to catch fire in the U.S., where Music Box Films bowed it in limited release this October. An Oscar nom could reignite interest, both in the film and for Basque cinema in general. Something the local industry, which is often overshadowed by its southern, Spanish neighbors, would certainly welcome.